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Mon Jun 01, 2015 at 07:52 PM PDT

Texas Legislature recesses until 2017

by johnatx

Reposted from johnatx by nomandates

Thank the maker!  The Lege finished up its 140 day session today.   Their next session will be in 2017.   As bad as it was, it could have been a whole lot worse.

More below

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Reposted from Support the Dream Defenders by nomandates

My heart goes out to the residents of the areas affected by tornadoes and flooding in Texas, Oklahoma, and Mexico. I have heard some heartbreaking stories of loss of lives and of destruction of property. People have been washed away right in front of the eyes of their loved ones. That's the type of horror from which one cannot ever recover; at least not anytime soon.

Family missing 05/27/2015 after record-breaking Texas floods. At home when house knocked off foundation, carried downriver, struck bridge, shattered apart.  Family ripped away from each other.  Husband swam out, called for help, broken ribs.
Texas family missing after house knocked off foundation, struck bridge and shattered
Mother Nature visiting devastation on communities and families without regard to race, creed, culture, or wealth.
Big 18-wheeler truck lifted and thrown onto its side by tornado just in front of chase vehicle, April 10, 2015.
Rochelle, Illinois, 18-wheeler truck hit by tornado, lifted and knocked onto side in front of chase car
At least 35 people-- 14 in northern Mexico, 15 in Texas plus six in Oklahoma -- have died in the severe weather, both tornadoes and flooding from raging rivers. Another nine people are missing.
RIP to those gone too soon. Condolences to their loved ones. We encourage help to those who are in need.

I watched and listened as CNN - with the inevitable and much-abused "breaking news" banner - covered the unfolding horror in the cities of Wharton, Texas, with their population of  8,756, and Wimberley, Texas, with a population of 2582.

As I watched the frenzied activities surrounding the devastating after-effects of the tornadoes and flooding; the amount of justifiable coverage, it dawned on me that we should have at least the same amount of time, attention, and coverage devoted to the Republican's refusal to accept a program that was designed to prevent deaths. Where was the coverage of the 9000 who died in Texas last year?

According to reputable, peer-reviewed sources, approximately 9,000 people will die this year because Texas Republican Governors have refused to expand the Medicaid Expansion Program (MEP):

Lack of insurance will certainly mean more deaths. How many more? Approximately 9,000 a year, according to Dr. Howard Brody, director of the Institute for Medical Humanities at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Brody calculated that figure by extrapolating from a recent Harvard University study published in The New England Journal of Medicine that found that states that expanded Medicaid saw a 6.1 percent reduction in the death rate among adults below 65 who qualified for the program. In a recent op-ed in the Galveston Daily News Brody wrote, “This means that we can predict, with reasonable confidence, if we fail to expand Medicaid . . . 9,000 Texans will die each year for the next several years as a result.”
Wimberley and Wharton have a combined population of 11,338.

Mother nature's fury is visited on the just and the unjust, rich and the poor, Republicans and Democrats; she doesn't discriminate.

Republican governors, on the other hand, single out and victimize the poor and the voiceless. GOP governors have, by their inaction, condemned what amounts to whole towns of people to their premature and preventable deaths. Those who do not die will suffer. Losing eyesight, losing limbs due to complications from diabetes, suffer strokes and heart attacks, or will become bankrupt.

The horror of the consequences of not accepting the MEP should be breaking news all day every day. People are suffering right now. People are dying right now.

So okay, we have been saying this same thing for about four months now.

Why are we doing this FOIA series? Just what do we hope to achieve? Where are we going?

Our simple objective is to get GOP Govenors to accept the Medicaid Expansion Program. We have asked nicely. We have asked angriliy. We begged and pleaded, all to no avail. Do you think these heartless, dishonorable governors can be shamed into doing the right thing? It's worth a try, we say.

We are rapidly coming up on the shaming phase of our project.

Once we have rounded up all the responses, we plan to send press releases to the media. It will be interesting to see how these governors respond once the media begins asking the following questions: How many people are needlessly dying in your state because you will not Expand Medicaid? How many people have had to file for bankruptcy because you will not Expand Medicaid? What have you done to find out the answers to these questions?
We have sent out the FOIA requests and gotten back some responses (see green chart, below). We now know that the Republican governors and legislatures have done Jack Squat to keep keep track of the people who have died or are dying because of their wickedness.

Will you help us build up a media storm on behalf of our poor?

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Reposted from nomandates by nomandates
Sample Texas voter registration certificate
Today, Battleground Texas' Legal Director Mimi Marziani sent a letter formally notifying Texas Secretary of State Carlos H. Cascos that Battleground Texas is prepared to file a lawsuit if the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) continues to violate Section 5 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). This Act is more commonly referred to as the Motor Voter law because "Section 5 requires state motor vehicle offices to provide voter registration opportunities to anyone applying for a new or renewed driver's license or state identification card."

Simply put, under the Motor Voter law, the DPS must assist in registering voters, yet many Texans who wished to register to vote or to update their voter registrations have been disenfranchised by that office's ongoing failures to comply with the law. Here's one such story from Texas keeping thousands from registering to vote, voting group alleges:

In interviews with msnbc, would-be voters expressed frustration and anger as they recounted going through the required registration procedures, only to be denied when they went to vote.

Totysa Watkins said that soon after she moved within the city of Irving in 2013, she updated her driver’s license and voter registration address online. But when she went to vote last November—bringing her five-year-old daughter with her to show her the importance of voting—Watkins was told she wasn’t on the rolls and forced to cast a provisional ballot. Two weeks later, she got a letter from the county saying her ballot had been rejected because there was no record of her voter registration application on file.

“I have been voting since I was 21, and to receive a letter that says my vote didn’t count just upset me. I feel like my voice wasn’t heard,” Watkins, who is 39 and African-American, said in an interview. “Even now, talking about it, it brings tears to my eyes.”

In the letter Marziani sent, other voters' experiences are recounted in a more clinical fashion. After getting the runaround from both the TX SOS and the DPS, for example, one voter's provisional ballot was counted:
Richard Gates:  Mr. Gates moved to Collin County from Massachusetts in July of 2014.  He and his husband registered their cars and applied for new drivers’ licenses at the Garland DPS location shortly after moving.  Both Mr. Gates and his husband indicated that they wanted to register to vote during the driver’s license application process.  A month or so later, Mr. Gates’ husband received his voter registration card in the mail; Mr. Gates did not receive one.  They went to the Haggard Library during the early voting period and — while his husband was able to vote — Mr. Gates was told that he was not registered.  Eventually, he was offered a provisional ballot.  Mr. Gates declined to vote a provisional ballot at that time in order to investigate his registration status.  He contacted the Secretary of State’s office to discuss his attempt to vote, but was told to contact DPS about the matter; DPS, in turn, told him to contact the Secretary of State. [my emphasis] He then went to the Davis Library location later in the early-voting period and, after again confirming that he was not listed as a registered voter in the database, he cast a provisional ballot.  Mr. Gates later received a letter indicating that his provisional ballot was counted, as well as two registration cards, one effective as of August 21, 2014 and another effective as of December 3, 2014.
 
Another voter's provisional ballot, however, was not counted:
De’Andre Carter:  Mr. Carter moved to Dallas County in May of 2013 after graduating from Texas A&M University in College Station.  He renewed his driver’s license at a Dallas DPS location in July of 2014, and recalls checking the “yes” box to register to vote in Dallas.  Mr. Carter received a new license in the mail a few weeks later, but did not receive a new voter registration card.  In preparation for Election Day in November 2014, Mr. Carter called Dallas County to confirm his polling location, but was told that he was still registered in College Station.  Upon explaining his attempt to register at DPS, he was told by election officials that the DPS system “was not caught up.”  Mr. Carter was told that he could cast a provisional ballot, and later went to a polling location and did so; he does not recall being advised to take any further action to ensure that his vote was counted.  Ultimately, Mr. Carter received a letter in the mail advising him that his vote was not counted.  He later received a voter registration card listing his current Dallas address.
There's no question that ALL of these individuals were eligible to vote in 2014. Yet when DPS failed its obligation to update their voter registrations, all were forced to cast provisional rather than regular ballots, and some later learned that their votes were not counted.
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Wed May 27, 2015 at 02:25 PM PDT

Texas floods: I am ok, how about you?

by TexMex

Reposted from TexMex by TexMex

Been fighting a bad head cold, so bad my eyes turned red for over a week. To say the least, no way did I care for Madeline during this time. Didn't want to take a chance on damaging her lungs. I miss her badly. "Aint no sunshine when she's gone!"
But none of my family has any problems.
The sad story is about Wimberly
http://www.kcentv.com/...
It is sad personally because my daughter spent many summers playing cowgirl at Rocky River Ranch while we did our cricket research in Austin. The campsite survived and will host more little girls this summer but many people lost their homes.
Austin is horribly flooded and there is alot of heart ache up and down central Texas.
So posting this to let you know I am ok. Maybe some of you other Texans can weigh and say you are ok or post pictures.
(please no Texas hater or ill wishing or Texas bashing.)
I look forward to comments as I still am a littlesick but totally bored. Pics would be welcomed.
This is as much as I can do.
Much love to you all especially to those who have lost loved ones or their homes or their pets.

Usually the poorest people live in the lowest areas.

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Reposted from Climate Change SOS by Tomtech

There's too much heat in the oceans. Way too much heat.

Much warmer than normal water surrounds the U.S. A super El Nino is building.
Hot water has surged across the equator in the Pacific and a deep pool of very hot water is building off of Mexico's west coast. Tropical convection has shifted westward with the hot water.
Global CO2 levels have rapidly risen above 400ppm causing a large imbalance between incoming and outgoing radiation levels. Almost all of the difference between incoming and outgoing amounts of energy has gone into heating the oceans. The warm subtropical waters of the global oceans expanded, the Indian ocean warmed and a large, deep pool of hot water grew around the Philippines. But then three supertyphoons rocked the Pacific in late fall 2013. Typhoon Haiyan, with had the strongest winds ever recorded at landfall, "broke the dam" created by years of stronger than normal tropical convection and strong trade winds that held an enormous body of hot water close to the Philippines.  A first surge of hot water moved across the Pacific in spring 2014, lowering the height of the seas around the Philippines but stronger than normal trade winds kept blowing in the south Pacific holding huge amounts of excess heat near Indonesia. Then supercyclone Pam and the strongest convective burst ever recorded near Indonesia and Australia, sent a massive wave of hot water towards the Americas. Now a super El Nino is developing.

The super El Nino is moving the global center of tropical convection towards the Americas. More moisture than normal is available to storms in the U.S. now, because of the excess vapor rising of the overheated waters. Strong trade winds in the tropical Atlantic have blown Atlantic moisture towards Texas where it converged with winds and moisture from the Pacific.

Much warmer than normal water in the Pacific ocean and the Gulf of Mexico were the source of  an exceptionally wet surge of air (in green) that converged over Texas and Oklahoma, causing severe flooding.
Much warmer than normal water in the Pacific ocean and the Gulf of Mexico were the source of an exceptionally wet surge of air (in green) that converged over Texas and Oklahoma, causing severe flooding.
On the other side of the world, the monsoon in India is likely to be weak and delayed as they suffer from weak winds and overheated air. Hundreds of Indians are dying in the heat as the combination of temperature and humidity becomes too hot to work outside. Vulnerable people who lack air conditioning will die. Hundreds have already died, but the toll will likely rise into the thousands as the weak monsoon fails to relieve the unbearable heat which is already approaching 120F and 50°C. Weak monsoons and extreme heat in India are a known consequence of El Nino, but global warming is making it more deadly.
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Reposted from Libby Shaw by Libby Shaw

The Texas Progressive Alliance welcomes the unofficial beginning of summer as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff takes a look behind the scenes at the deal struck between Houston's Metro and US Rep. John Culberson.

Lightseeker at Texas Kaos injects a little Colbert humor into his piece about craven Texas politicians that run away from crucial issues that will impact our future whether we like it or not. Knowing how the Titanic Passengers felt...

Socratic Gadfly discusses how Pew Research's latest religious survey is another reason Democrats shouldn't make demographic assumptions about voters, in this case, Hispanic/Latino ones.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wonders how republicans can ignore real needs, promote xenophobia and violate labor standards for the DPS with one act.

Neil at All People Have Value took a walk in Houston Freedman's Town and in Galveston. He took good pictures. Everyday life is fun and interesting if you make some effort and look around. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. Damn near everyone knows that our political systems are rigged. Those on the left those on the right and everyone in between. That frustration is being shown in many different ways all over the political spectrum. Where Left And Right Come Together - Our Political System Is Rigged.

'Mr. Tesla', according to Rep. Senfronia Thompson, was one of the biggest losers so far in the Texas Lege's 84th session. But so has been Rep. Senfronia Thompson, according to PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

From Drake's star-studded Houston Appreciation Weekend to the historic opening of two new light rail lines, Texas Leftist can say in earnest that it was a great week to be in the Bayou City.

========

And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

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Reposted from Stephen Benavides by nomandates

Texas’ House Joint Resolution 26, which would have allowed for a state-wide referendum on increasing the state minimum wage to $10.10, was defeated by Republicans in the Texas House on May 14, 2015.

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Sat May 23, 2015 at 12:44 PM PDT

Not Everything is Bigger in Texas

by LeftOfYou

Reposted from LeftOfYou by nomandates
Example: Itty Bitty Crowd Attending Commencement Speech by Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX)

Last Saturday, when Texas Governor Greg Abbott rose to give the commencement address to the Spring, 2015 graduating class at the University of North Texas in Denton, he found himself gazing out across a tiny puddle of graduates edging a vast field of empty chairs, with not a few backs turned on him. The Governor's antipathy to the advancement of civil rights, unbounded love for the "awl bidness" and preference for fracking over democratic self-rule had produced a backlash among the graduates, causing most of them to either boycott or protest the Governor's speech.

According to the Washington Post:

the governor of the state — addressed just a tiny fraction of the graduating class. And part of that small audience was actively protesting him — turning away from him, holding anti-Gov. Greg Abbott signs.
Spokespersons controlled by the Governor's office tried to laugh off the pathetic spectacle of Governor Abbott shouting into an almost empty hall, putting the blame on bad weather and a change of venue. But the Post also reported that the snub to the Governor was actively promoted and organized on campus by “Turn Your Back on Bigotry” which issued a declaration quoted by the Post:
“1. The selection of Governor Greg Abbott clarified the necessity for graduating students to participate in selecting their commencement speaker. By inviting a polarizing political figure such as Governor Greg Abbott as the keynote speaker, UNT administration has politicized an event meant to celebrate the accomplishments of a diverse community of students.
2. Governor Abbott supports policies that impede the attainment of rights pursued by marginalized communities, including, but not limited to: the LGBT+ population, women, people of color, and lower/working class people, e.g. Abbott’s attempts to block access to in-state tuition for undocumented migrants is antithetical to this university’s purported commitment to higher education and opportunity.
3. Governor Abbott’s intent to override local control poses a direct threat to Denton’s democratic decision to secure the health and safety of its residents via the November 2014 ban on hydraulic-fracturing.”
Local chafing causing people to act out publicly against rough shod, sell-out, extremist, Republican governance can only be a good thing in a place like Texas. Always remember that there are liberals and progressives and other right thinking people everywhere, in abundance, even in places like Texas. Good things can come from getting them riled up.
Discuss
Reposted from Libby Shaw by Libby Shaw

The Texas Progressive Alliance doesn't need hindsight to know that invading Iraq was a tragically stupid decision as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff is pleasantly surprised to hear that the Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority and US Rep. John Culberson have reached an accord in their longstanding feud over funding for light rail in Houston.

Letters from Texas provides a step-by-step guide to using your hypocrisy to justify your bigotry.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos calls it as she sees it when the U.S. Congress cut Amtrak's budget within hours of the train wreck outside of Philadelphia last week.  Republican Austerity Kills. Literally.

Nonsequiteuse asks you to consider the long game for progressives in Texas, and explains why she's building progressive infrastructure and working the next generation of leaders through New Leaders Council.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. The GOP's end of session plan for tax cuts is getting near completion, Give It All To Business - The GOP Tax Compromise.

In a roundup of events, Socratic Gadfly says this week in Texas politics was probably even nuttier than normal ó a high bar to clear.

Julian Castro is Hllary Clinton's pick for running mate, according to Henry Cisneros.  That suggests a Latino will also be the vice-presidential nominee of the Republicans.  PDiddie at Brains and Eggs thinks that might be the most interesting thing that could liven up an otherwise completely predictable 2016 presidential season.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is surprised that a Republican was so honest about tax cuts being just for the business cronies.  Who needs roads, schools, or safety inspections.  The rich can buy their own.  But, the shrinking middle class and the poor must pay for what's left.

Neil at All People Have Value posted about 11 pictures he keeps in his phone that involve death. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

=======

And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

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Reposted from weinenkel by nomandates
Empty school desks
It is so much quieter in school when no one's there.
Texas appleseed released a report on Texas's truancy policy and practices. The findings are alarming:
Texas currently prosecutes more than twice the number of truancy cases prosecuted in all other states combined. These students are sent to adult criminal courts, unlike almost all other states, which send them to civil juvenile courts.

• While some Texas school districts have implemented effective school- and community-based programs to address truancy, these approaches are not the norm. Children rarely get the individualized attention that research suggests is most effective in intervening with truant youth.

• Four in five children sent to court for truancy are economically disadvantaged, according
to TEA—yet fines are the most common sanction for children charged with truancy.

• Due process protections are often ignored in the courts where these cases are prosecuted, with children (who are rarely represented by counsel) pleading guilty or no contest to charges they often do not understand, even when they may have a valid defense.

• In some jurisdictions, judges order children charged with truancy to withdraw from school
and take the GED; this resulted in 6,423 court-ordered dropouts who failed the test over a three-year period—a number likely to grow significantly in the face of plunging passage rates for the GED.

African-American and Hispanic students are overrepresented in truancy cases statewide, as are special education students. Finding more effective ways to intervene with these youth is critical, since these students are among those most vulnerable to poor educational outcomes.

In that last finding the word "overrepresented" equals 83.6% of Texas truancy cases last school year. Al-Jazeera America has put together a multi-part series on Texas's truancy problem. In 2014 Texas "assessed fines and court costs of $16.1 million for truancy convictions". This has resulted in the truancy policy performing as a criminalization of children policy. It's so bad that a month ago, Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston) proposed and passed a bill to decriminalize the truancy system.
“No school should make a criminal charge out of a hardship of somebody that’s going through a divorce, or a 14-year-old that has no maternity clothes so she can’t go to school,” Whitmire said.

Under his legislation, Whitmire said school administrators and judges would have all the same tools they have now to try to ensure kids are not skipping school. The difference, he argued, is there would be no criminal charge to follow a young person around for the rest of their life.

The only other state to apply criminal justice to truancy is Wyoming. If you're running your state with policies championed by the legislators of Wyoming you're basically living in a prison state. Here's an example of how this super brilliant system works:
Raquel was 14 when she had her first hearing in truancy court. She says she knew what “truancy” meant but was confused when the judge asked her to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest. “I was looking at my mom for all the answers, and she couldn’t talk,” Raquel remembers. Children charged with truancy, unlike those facing more serious crimes, have no right to court-appointed counsel if they can’t afford it, and many judges will not allow parents to speak for their children. A frustrated but helpless Yolanda says: “You’re standing there in silence. You want to say something, but you’re not allowed.”
Yolanda and Raquel are poor. This was followed by three more court cases, a conviction, and a $180 fine and court cost decision. They didn't have that money.
In September, with $107 still unpaid and two more unexcused absences, she was summoned to court again. This time, the judge ordered her to do community service in lieu of paying the fine and threatened to hold her in contempt of court if she missed any more days of school. On Feb. 19, 2014, he followed through on that threat, and sent Raquel to Dallas County’s Truancy Enforcement Center.
The best part of all of this is that all of these kids (upwards of 100,000) have adult criminal records before they even get to be an adult!
Discuss
Reposted from AllenM by nomandates

Good news from Texas for a change.

For those not aware of this story it actually started in December 2013 when Kari Rene Hunt's estranged husband asked her to meet him in a hotel with their children and leave the children with him for a short visitation while he was in town.

When Kari got there Kari's estranged husband ambushed her and trapped her in the bathroom.

Follow below the fold for the rest.

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Reposted from Daily Kos Labor by nomandates
The DuPont chemical plant is seen in LaPorte, Texas, 26 miles (42 km) from downtown Houston, November 17, 2014.   Medical personnel had to wait hours to retrieve four dead bodies after a hazardous chemical leak at a unit of a DuPont and Co plant in LaPorte because they were not trained to use the proper safety equipment, the company said on Monday.   REUTERS/Erwin Seba  (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS DISASTER INDUSTRIAL) - RTR4EHJI
Last fall, four workers were killed by a gas leak in a Texas DuPont plant. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has investigated and concluded that:
Those workers “would be alive today had their employer, DuPont, taken steps to protect them,” according to the release announcing the end of the investigation. “Four people lost their lives and their families lost loved ones because DuPont did not have proper safety procedures in place,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels. “Had the company assessed the dangers involved, or trained their employees on what to do if the ventilation system stopped working, they might have had a chance.”
What's the penalty for four lives lost and 11 safety violations, nine of them serious? A whopping $99,000—plus the "scores of safety upgrades the company must undertake to prevent future accidents." But with penalties like that and a plant that had last been inspected in 2007 before these deaths, DuPont doesn't have enormous incentives to follow through. Why would we expect companies to invest in safety when they know the penalties for killing workers will be so low?
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